Diamonds are one of the wonders of nature. These precious gems traditionally have come from deep within the Earth, where heat and pressure have transformed carbon into the crystals that dazzle our society. However, they require an extraction process that has become embroiled in controversy because of geopolitical tensions, human rights violations, and environmental issues over the past few decades.
Did you know that diamonds do not need to come from under the ground? Thanks to advances in science and technology, diamonds grown in a lab are so indistinguishable from natural diamonds that only highly specialized equipment can tell them apart.
Lab-grown diamonds, also known as man-made diamonds, are flourishing in popularity due to the concerns about natural diamond mining.
Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds that scientists grow in a controlled lab environment. They have precisely the same chemical composition and are physically identical to natural diamonds, except for where they grow. Natural and lab-grown diamonds test the same, and even an expert would not be able to tell them apart. A traditional diamond testing machine will not always identify a lab grown diamond properly. In many cases a diamond testing machine will indicate that the stone is a diamond but in other cases the machine will miss-identify the stone as moissanite or just not identify the stone all together. Therefore, it is important to test the lab grown item with the proper testing device which may or not be available at your jeweler.
A natural diamond forms miles below the Earth’s crust, while a lab-grown diamond forms within a highly specialized laboratory. The scientists in the lab reproduce the same processes that create a natural diamond using two main methods.
- Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)
- High-Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)
In the CVD method, the scientist places a tiny diamond seed made of carbon atoms in a plasma reactor chamber. Gasses that contain carbon fill the low-pressure chamber, and high temperatures created by the plasma bond the carbon atoms to the seed. Layers grow around the seed to create a rough diamond.
For HPHT, the method is relatively simple. Specially designed mechanical presses put the diamond seed under extreme heat and pressure. The process causes the seed to grow into a rough diamond.
Lab-created diamonds are often confused with simulated diamonds, but they are not at all the same. Simulants look similar to diamonds, but they are not real—unlike lab-grown diamonds.
The most common diamond simulants are cubic zirconia and moissanite, both of which are much cheaper than real diamonds but are entirely different materials.
- Good for the environment. Lab-grown diamonds are more environmentally friendly than natural diamonds, which cause environmental concerns. Mining requires excessive resources to dig deep into the earth, wasting large amounts of water and electricity and emitting carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere.
- Conflict-free. You can track the origin of diamonds grown in a lab in detail, unlike natural diamonds with a reputation for unethical practices. Diamond mines are known for poor working conditions, human rights violations, child labor, and involvement with cartels.
- Affordable. The accessibility of lab-grown diamonds makes them much more affordable than natural diamonds. You can find lab-grown diamonds of comparable size and quality to a natural diamond for a better price with no noticeable difference in appearance.
- Color variety. Diamonds are generally colorless and finding a natural diamond with color is exceedingly rare. Scientists in the lab can create diamonds in various colors to suit your tastes.
- Fewer defects. Since creating a lab-grown diamond is a highly controlled process, it’s possible to achieve diamonds of much higher quality at a rate that natural diamonds can’t beat.
Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds with no physical distinctions from natural diamond—but there are differences that matter. A diamond that scientists make in a lab is not only sustainable; it’s ethical. The diamond mining industry is fraught with human rights issues, and if this is something you care about, we urge you to make a commitment to lab-grown diamonds.